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Film / Paul, Apostle of Christ

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Just a couple of saints taking a walk.
Paul, Apostle of Christ is a 2018 biblical-historical drama depicting the final days of Paul the Apostle. Written and directed by Andrew Hyatt and produced by and starring Jim Caviezel, it draws from The Bible as well as the histories of Tacitus, Christian legends, and Hyatt's imagination.

Despite the title, narratively speaking the protagonist is Paul's friend Luke (Caviezel). Luke arrives in Rome shortly after the Great Fire destroyed half the city, and Christians are being persecuted because the emperor Nero blames them for the disaster. The Christian community there, led by Priscilla (Joanne Whalley) and Aquila (John Lynch), is divided over whether to flee for their lives or stay and help the many Romans left orphaned and/or homeless by the fire. Luke visits Paul (James Faulkner) in Mamertine Prison where he's awaiting execution, hoping that the old man might provide words of inspiration to the troubled flock. Meanwhile, the prefect running Mamertine, Mauritius (Olivier Martinez), starts getting curious about what the two men are up to, especially since his gods don't seem to be responding to his pleas to heal his dying daughter...


Paul, Apostle of Christ contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actual Pacifist: Most of the elders in the Christian community, especially Paul. An argument on the subject breaks out in the middle of the movie, when a group of young Christian men start itching to avenge all the abuse heaped on their people. Paul, Priscilla and Aquila insist that it's un-Christlike to take up arms, even in self-defense.
  • Bible Times: Also Ancient Rome, though the subject matter, along with grubby street-level view of things (don't expect any panoramic shots of famous buildings), give it a more biblical flavor.
  • Big "NO!": Priscilla does this when she sees the body of Tarquin.
  • Blood-Spattered Innocents: A young Christian woman is found wandering the streets covered in blood, which turns out to be her baby's.
  • Canon Foreigner: Mauritius, along with his wife and daughter, were invented for the movie.
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  • Character Title: Although, as mentioned, the title character isn't really the protagonist.
  • Crapsack World: Rome after the fire. Thousands are homeless, orphans are left to die in the streets and widows are begging on street corners, while Nero exacts ghastly punishments on Christians.
  • Dedication: An end-title dedicates the movie to all Christians being persecuted for their faith.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Paul, who faces beheading with unearthly tranquility. Also, a group of Christians about to be fed to animals in the arena, once Luke rallies their spirits.
  • Fed to the Beast: Almost a requirement for any movie portraying the persecution of early Christians. Luke himself narrowly escapes this fate due to Mauritius requiring his services.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Though there's a lot of violence in the film, and a fair amount of blood, the camera always cuts away right before the hacking, flogging, burning and animal feeding actually start. At Paul's execution, the camera stays with it right till the executioner lifts his ax, then turns to the sky to indicate that Paul's spirit is going to Heaven.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Nero. He never appears onscreen nor directly intervenes in events, but his standing orders to suppress Christianity drive the plot.
  • Hellhole Prison: Mamertine, a dark and filthy place where cries of agony seem to be constantly coming from one place or another. For Paul, the term is almost literal — his cell is a hole in the ground.
  • Illegal Religion: Christianity is declared an illegal cult by Nero with any followers being executed, either by being turned alight or fed to animals in the arena. Still, a handful of Christians such as Luke are tolerated by certain officers like Mauritius.
  • I Choose to Stay: At the end of the film, even though the other Christians are leaving, Luke decides to stay in Rome to keep Paul company until his death.
  • Knight Templar: Paul describes himself as this when he persecuted Christians. He sincerely believed that he was serving God by doing it.
  • Making the Masterpiece: The film, among other things, provides an origin story for the Acts of the Apostles, showing Luke realizing that he needs to write down Paul's story before he's killed and having Paul dictate it to him.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The healing of Mauritius's daughter could be viewed as due to Luke's medical expertise or to divine intervention, or both. This likely explains why Mauritius is still on the fence about Jesus at the end of the film.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Paul has these with aspects of Flashback Nightmare, as he dreams of his earlier persecution of Christians and sees them standing in front of him as if in judgement.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Since Paul is the Trope Namer, this line naturally turns up, as Paul warns against it when the young men start plotting revenge.
  • Posthumous Character: Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, died during Paul's youth when he witnessed his execution by stoning for blasphemy. It was his death that sends Paul on his Start of Darkness by becoming a persecutor of Christians.
  • Public Execution: As the movie shows, the Romans excelled at this sort of thing. Among Nero's methods are tying Christians to stakes and setting them on fire to light the streets.
  • The Queen's Latin: Most of the cast is a mixture of American and British actors, who seem to have settled on a compromise Mid-Atlantic English to take the place of Latin. Martinez speaks with his native French accent, but his character mentions that he's a foreigner who only became a Roman citizen after serving in the army.
  • Riddle for the Ages: While the stage is set for Mauritius to convert, we never find out if it actually happens.
  • Single Tear: Luke sheds one as he's watching a fellow Christian get turned into a street lamp. Also doubles as a Gory Discretion Shot.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Paul has tasted it so much that he can't even stand up straight.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Paul's Nightmare Sequence includes images of literal blood on his hands.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Luke requests Mauritius to get a medicine from the Christians in order to save his daughter, even though Mauritius could very have them arrested and executed for their faith. Thankfully, he doesn't and keeps their location secret.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Oh dear, is Improbable Infant Survival ever averted in this film. Not only do the Roman soldiers shamelessly slaughter Christian children — even babies — but Paul remembers doing the same before his conversion. Luke also mentions the broader Roman practice of eugenic infanticide (which also may be a Leaning on the Fourth Wall dig at abortion).


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